Warfare is ALWAYS expensive. You deliberately destroy what is inherently valuable. Military equipment is expensive and the personnel who use them are for the most part, highly trained in the skill of destroying what the enemy has built. Civilian infrastructure is damaged and destroyed, many times deliberately. The economy of the enemy is a valid target, hence damage and destruction of this vital resource. Prior to the rise of the professional army, pay was what you took when the city was sacked or the enemy defeated. (Booty) Because most armies are professional today, the sacking of cities has generally disappeared. Genocide is quite another matter.
In wars of conquest, you attempt to minimize damage. Particularly when regarding civilians. One of the better examples was the way Romans ruled. Rome was very good at turning former enemies into subjects and/or allies. Punitive warfare is an altogether different type of warfare. Today, it can be called genocide, although punitive warfare involved killing and destroying EVERYTHING, not just people. Rome was good at that one too. In other words, these issues have been around a long time.
Fortunately, while our losses are important, we have not lost any measurable combat capability, on the tactical level or strategic. Unless of course, you count the fact that our forces are committed in Afghanistan and Iraq and much of what is deployed there is unavailable to be deployed elsewhere.
With the loss of one regiment dead (4,500) and two divisions wounded, (40,000) our strength in the field remains the same. Our losses are on a small scale. In past conflicts, we have lost these many in just a few days and those wars went on for years. We have not instituted the draft. Our military could be expanded a great deal, although this would take months to begin to have an effect. Short-term combat capability would drop because portions of the military would be needed for training and equipping the new units.
This war is particularly expensive in terms of financing. We have spent a great deal of resources in the form of billions of dollars. However, in military terms, the cost has been relatively small.
The plus side of this war is difficult to estimate. A few things are certain. The U.S. has not been directly attacked since 9/11. The savings in prevention are very large. The enemy has been unable to hit us again, I am certain that they do want to hit us, BADLY. One reason they have been unable to do so is our wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. They tried to engage our military in an environment that is ideal for conventional militaries like us. Iraq has proved to be high loss rate for little in return for our enemy. This cannot have any effect other than to reduce their capabilities. Our enemy would love to obtain some effective WMD.
WMD are expensive to make and/or purchase. While our enemy was committing its resources in Iraq, it could not use these same resources to obtain WMD. This could have no other effect than to delay our enemy’s effort to obtain WMD.
The savings from the delay of our enemy obtaining WMD are inestimable. However, even then, it can only be a matter of time before they are successful in obtaining and deploying WMD. The only questions are when and how many. Time is NOT on our side. As expensive as it will be, we must continue to wage offensive warfare.